Shambhavi riffs on kindness, fierce compassion, your natural Shakti, and plain old being mean. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi
So I grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood, and most of the families were quite working class. And it was a pretty typical Irish Catholic neighborhood in that there was huge families and a lot of drinking and a lot of fighting and a lot of domestic violence.
So it was quite an aggressive, violent atmosphere. And my family also had a lot of aggression going on between my parents.
The other thing that was going on in the neighborhood, that I grew up in was there was a lot of religious and race divisions.
So I sort of lived in this weird area, where there was sort of the Irish Catholic side of the tracks, more working class. And then on the other side of the tracks, was a more middle class neighborhood with a lot of Jewish people, where my aunt lived.
And then running straight through it was the little commuter train that came from downtown Philadelphia out into the middle class Jewish neighborhood and suburbs beyond.
And on that train came all these African American people who were cleaning the houses and taking care of the kids of the people in the more middle class and upper middle class neighborhoods.
And I was very aware of these divisions and the kind of meanness that prevailed in these divisions.
And when I was little, I just really had this longing for people to be kinder to each other and just to not try to hurt each other. To treat each other in a way that was not intentionally hurtful. We can't help but hurt people as we go along because people are hurt for all sorts of reasons.
Not just because we do something hurtful. Sometimes we're not doing anything hurtful and people are hurt [laughter]. But that's not what I mean.
So I had this really deep longing since I was a little kid for people just to be kind to each other and to not try to hurt each other. Because I saw a lot of unkindness and a lot of intentional hurtfulness.
So I still feel that way. And even though I'm 59 years old, I'm still a little surprised when people are unkind to each other or intentionally try to hurt each other.
I mean not people out there but, you know, people I know [laughter].
You know, I'm always a little surprised when people cultivate grudges and just sort of lash out at each other because they just start having a bad day or something like that. And I always wish that wouldn't happen.
So today I want to talk about aggression a little bit. And then maybe we can talk about aggression in our own lives, and how that looks for us and how that feels.
Every one of what we call the realm fixations, in other words, the different kinds of karmic patterns that our emotions show up in, all of them are aggressive. Because each one of our patterns, has at its core a desire to manipulate other people or manipulate outcomes or manipulate things in some way or another.
Manipulation is at the heart of aggression.
And aggression isn't just the use of force. There is energy, and we use energy and using force is appropriate. We couldn't live without using force. The opposite of aggression isn't just sitting around like a wet noodle [laughter].
In fact, you can be very precise, and active, and powerful in your actions and not be aggressive.
So there's no dichotomy. I think, there's, you know, in our culture today there's a confusion among a lot of young men about what to do with their energy.
And so there's this misconception that just being forceful is somehow, you know, going to make ladies not want to be with you. So there's this sort of artificial dampening of energy, and lowering the voice, and speaking in the certain way, being afraid to let your shakti out, right?
So I think there's a lot of like, for young men or even not so young men, just an uncertainty about how okay it is to have a lot of energy, you know, have that more masculine kind of energy and what to do with it.
So I'm not talking about just using your energy. We all have to do that. And we all have to, you know, make our way in the world and it's beautiful when people use their energy.
There's also women have fear of using their energy also and of being powerful for different reasons—mainly for fear of being criticized.
So I guess everybody is afraid of being criticized for using their energy these days.
But sometimes I come down to the table in the morning and some people are sitting around. Of course, only if they get up in time [laughter] or it's like later in the afternoon perhaps, they're all sitting around and everyone's going [whispers], all the women are [whispers].
And I said, will you people talk? Use your voice. I'm like,[...] use your voice, use your words [laughter].
So let's not confuse simply being powerful, and using your shakti, and letting your shakti express itself freely for being aggressive. It's not the same thing.
We should try to get used to our energy. To feel our energy—to let it express itself freely from the context of open heartedness. If we let it express through the context of open heartedness, even if it's fierce, it will not be unkind.
If you're really resting in your wisdom heart, no matter what comes out of your mouth, no matter how fierce it is or precise or sharp, it will not be unkind.
So aggression is always manipulative. And all aggression is both manipulative and defensive. So it's interesting because the karmic fixations that we have are trying to resolve the problem of our experience of separation and vulnerability.
That means the only way to resolve that is to reestablish connectivity, right?
The only way to resolve the problem of our experience of being separate, vulnerable, impermanent beings, is to reconnect with what is eternal and that refuge in the supreme self. That's the only way to do that.
So everything that we do, including anger, is a way of trying to reconnect.
At the same time though we are doing things, of course, that push people away [laughter]. So we're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot.
But today I wanted to specifically talk about anger. I think that anger is really an area that a lot of people have a lot of confusion about. And the first thing I want to say is that all of the realms utilize anger in some way.
So you know, every single one of the realms uses anger, whether you're deploying sadness in an angry way. Or you're deploying God like preachiness in an angry way. Or you're deploying your superior intellect in an angry way. Or you're deploying your superior accomplishments in an angry way.
Any of the different ways that we express our tension, our karmic tension, can come with a flavor of anger.
And interestingly, about anger is that it tries to magnetize people.
So we often ask, what are you angry about, right? We should really be asking what are you angry for? What are you trying to get with your anger?
Oftentimes when people are feeling threatened or they feel badly about themselves, they will be angry at other people, and they will cultivate anger, and hold on to anger, and hold grudges, and things like that—as a way of magnetizing someone, the person that they're deploying this anger toward.
Because no one likes or very few people respond favorably to someone being angry at you.
And so if a friend or a colleague expresses anger toward you or seems to be resentful toward you, you will try to do something about it, right? You will try to fix it or you will try to combat it or you will try to explain yourself, right? in some way.
And so when you do that, when you enter into that kind of agreement, I'm going to throw my anger at you and now you're going to do these other things back. You have been magnetized.
This is what I mean, when it's better to ask what is anger for rather than what is it about.
And of course, this goes with all the different kinds of realm flavors, but particularly anger is really powerful energy.
And people who are chronically angry at other people and use anger to manipulate other people, keep people magnetized by constantly, basically sending the message that you're doing something wrong, and keeping you magnetized through your own effort to try to get it right, and make that person stop being angry at you.
Ha ha ha [laughter]
It is never ever called for in a spiritual sense. It is never called for to try to manipulate or magnetize another person, in that way, or with any kind of emotion.
That is never called for, if you're trying to wake up. It is always fundamentally unkind.
That being said, everybody does it, and, you know, it's not that easy to stop.
However, the opposite of that is that you are resting in Presence and you are neutral with respect to everything that's happening.
So there's a kind of a magnificent neutrality. It sounds like strange two words to put together, right?—where you can act powerfully from a place of rest. And not be trying to get anybody to do something because you have a feeling of separation or sadness or inadequacy.
So that kind of neutrality is really, absolutely the only kind of real rest. It's like a cessation of all effort to manipulate anything or anyone.
All the tendrils that you have out. We all have these thousands of tendrils out every moment, trying to manipulate everything, make ourselves feel safe, make ourselves feel loved, make other people magnetized to us.
People keep each other magnetized in relationships. Magnetized with anger for decades, right? Deploying anger, either one at the other or both at each other.
Deploying that for decades and keeping each other magnetized while each person is trying to somehow live up to what the other person seems to be expecting.
But really, the only thing that anybody wants is connection.
When we don't have, though, a real base in Presence, then we are trying to get connection, but it's in this very ordinary way. I'm just going to keep you bound to me through all these manipulations and demands and magnetizing activities.
I'm very very sad and it's your fault, and you have to do something about it, right? Or I'm angry and it's your fault, and you have to do something about it. Maybe for your whole life, you have to keep trying to do something about it, right?
So anger can arise in any of the different flavors of Karma.
Welcome! But it particularly arises in what we call a hell realm fixation. So those of you that haven't taken foundations, you may or may not have heard this term.
But it comes out of both in Indian teaching stories and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and they're called the Six Realms of Samsara. And they're basically like, windows or karmic flavors that we show up in—sort of packages of the way that our body, energy and mind shows up, configured by different karmas.
So one of the realms is called hell realm and the basic flavor of hell realm is anger.
And what precipitates this anger is an unbearable feeling inside. Kind of, I just can't live with myself feeling.
A feeling that could be something more, sort of inchoate or unconscious that I'm just broken, now there's something broken about me, or literal self hatred, or just this very deep, deep, deep uncertainty about your value or your right to exist.
Really kind of bottom line, kind of uncertainty about oneself. And so that is just intolerable, it becomes intolerable.
And so this anger gets projected outwards, as a way to try to make it more tolerable to just live, right? And it's a really really painful, painful situation to be in.
People that live in this condition a lot, just feeling really terrible about themselves all the time and trying to just, it's like, trying to just get out of that feeling of feeling so bad about yourself.
And one way to get out of it is to just push that anger out really strongly onto somebody else, right? It's a very uneven way to live.
As I said, though, anger arises in all the realms, but in particular, hell realm—that kind of feeling of hating the condition that you're in. It might not always be self hatred, but you might just hate how you feel. And then that gets pushed out toward other people.
But again, even in that situation, even then, even when someone's saying "fuck you," you know, because I've heard this—you know, just people screaming at each other and accusing each other, this and that and the other thing. Even then, it's a way to try to connect, even then.
Our job as practitioners is to recognize Presence, recognize that supreme reality, and stick ourselves to it like white on rice, no matter what happens. That's our job.
We should be giving ourselves, we should be feeling empathy and mercy towards ourselves for all the things that we go through, but we should be giving ourselves no excuses to remain in an ordinary condition. So we have to do both of those things at the same time.
We are children of God. We are made by God. We are made of God.
So there's really no reason to be self deprecating or get on your case because you have these karmas.
This is just how we are. It's how things are. It's nothing particularly visited on you [laughter]. So there's nothing to be upset with ourselves about because we showed up this way.
But neither should we give ourselves time outs to act in such an ordinary way.
Like to just let these ordinary fixations run and run and run and run, until inevitably they result in a greater feeling of separation, right? Inevitably, they result in that the karmas get deeper, the more we let them run. And inevitably that means a deeper feeling of separation.
Our job, once we've met teachings and teacher, is to try to reduce that process of deepening Karma, to try to not take on new patterns in this life. To reduce the numbers of compulsive patterns that we're subject to, right?
And as I said the other week and, is that, I'm actually doing this thing, like not just talking about it.
So anyone wants to do it with me, that's great, but I'm actually doing it. So don't expect me to let you off the hook because I am actually doing it [laughter].
I am so determined because it's just what I've always wanted, you know, to be open hearted and have everyone learn to be open hearted too, right? To go easy on each other, to express kindness towards each other, to be able to act powerfully and creatively in the world, to be expressive.
I've always wanted those things since I was born and so I'm not going to stop and anyone who wants to come with me can.
But this is for reals. This is a no excuses practice [laughs]. I don't give myself any excuses. I'm also not hard on myself at the same time. You know, I'm not criticizing myself either.
If I make a mistake, I make a mistake. So what? I'm human.
I used to worry about making mistakes when I still was a lot more ordinary, right? I used to freak out if I made a mistake, but that was just ego, right? That's just ego.
So I've seen a lot of people in the Mandala recently, just not a lot, but some examples of people being mean to each other, people being kind of getting angry and then not doing the work of getting back to open heartedness anytime soon [laughter], right?
People not allowing other people to just be human. People going off on like ridiculous long tangents of karmic rants. It's all I could say is rants.
People refusing to after they've gone on some karmic binge, refusing to actually step up and realize what's happened. I've seen bunches of this stuff going on lately.
And I just want you all to know that you can all do that, but that's not what I'm here for.
That's not what I'm doing and you can do it. But as tantrikas, and if you are my students, then after you do it, after like a minute or five minutes or ten minutes or maybe 6 hours at the most [laughter], you better get back on track.
You have all the tools you need, right? [laughter]. You have all the tools you need.
And the only thing you get from going on these detours of meanness and anger and resentment and ranting and passive aggression and all the stuff that's going on around anger.
I don't know if there's something going on astrologically, but there's just a lot of anger flying around, even among very experienced practitioners in this community—just like giving into momentary impulses to treat other people badly. And you don't do that.
You can feel those things but you use your practice to work with that, right?
It's just not pop psychology, Allah 1978, where everyone's like expressing their anger and throwing plates against the wall, [teases] "I'm just telling you how I feel". It's not about that [laughter].
We have tools, right? We have tools to work with this stuff and we just keep, you know, picking away with our tools day after day.
Because I can tell you from my own personal experience that it feels a lot better, to not be in such a condition of tension.
Whatever pleasures you're getting out of throwing your stuff at other people, hurling your stuff at other people, whatever pleasure you're getting out of that is like, so, Walmart. It's really not worth it [laughter]. It's off gassing [laughter].
If you're going to be that ordinary with me, I'm going to basically just wait. You can't magnetize me. You can't scare me. You can't make me stop what I'm doing and stop and pause on my own waking up to like, get into some bullshit with you. I'm just not going to [laughter].
So when you guys do that, I'm just waiting. Just ho humming by the side of the river, waiting for you to do whatever [laughter]. I will stop there. Ho hum ho hum.
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